Bacon, written by Sophie Swithinbank, and brought to the Edinburgh Fringe by HFH Productions, is a masterclass in storytelling. Focusing on the lives of fifteen-year-old’s Mark, Corey Montague-Sholay, and Darren, William Robinson, it explores masculinity, sexuality, and the dangers of toxicity in youthful relationships. Mark has just joined a new school and is struggling to make friends until he meets the hot-tempered Darren. The two could not be more different, and as such seem drawn to one another.
Swithinbank’s script is electric. Despite repeatedly switching between narration and dialogue, it feels incredibly real. The characters may address the audience, but they never stop feeling like actual human beings. Perhaps this is because they are both so relatable, albeit in very different ways. I think most people know both a Mark and a Darren, and the consequent friendship that arises between the two feels both natural and dangerous. We can see why they gravitate towards each other, even if there is an impending sense of an oncoming disaster.
Montague-Sholay and Robinson are simply phenomenal. Their chemistry is electric and the ease with which they switch between humour, horror, and heartbreak is breath-taking. It is also rare that two adult men can so completely embody fifteen-year-olds. Although you know that they are far older than their characters, it doesn’t take you out of the play for a second. It is also a necessary to cast older actors as sections of the play take place years later, when both are nineteen. These transitions between time periods were very fluid and helped increase my investment in the plot. We know early on that something very bad went down between the two of them, but don’t find out what until far later in the play.
The set was simple but effective. A large seesaw occupies centre stage, and the actors use it to great effect, both to establish different locations, and to demonstrate the shifting power dynamics throughout the play. There was one particularly effective moment in which the two men were both on all fours on the seesaw, but while Mark was in a state of drug-induced ecstasy, Darren was in agony. In a way they were mirrors of each other, despite having completely contrasting experiences. In truth, this is a theme that runs through much of the play.
I don’t want to give away any specifics here, as so much of the play’s power comes from watching the story progress, but I will say I was gripped throughout. Bacon is a perfect example of a writer, director and cast firing on all cylinders. Getting to watch it was an experience I will not forget in a hurry.
Reviewer: Ben Pearson
Reviewed: 20th August 2023
North West End UK Rating: